I spent a fortnight in England this summer. Staying in an excellent Orthodox monastery (St. John the Baptist in Essex) and touring the country for another week. The greatest part of the week, I believe, will prove to be the fact that I was roommate for 14 days with my 19 year-old son, James. He’s good company and very down-to-earth in his assessments of things. Solid man – the type you’d want in a foxhole with you. The most fun moment probably came at Stonehenge. We enjoyed the monument, even when it was attacked by a giant finger! It’s an incredible piece of prehistoric work, whatever it was used for. Shortly after we arrived (in the week following summer solstice, mind you), busloads of badly dressed pilgrims showed up for druid stuff. I say, “badly dressed,” not because it was poorly sewn and what-not, but because everyone seemed to think that something period-based was necessary. Now, mind you, I was standing there in standard issue Russian Orthodox cassock, so I can’t complain about looking a bit different. But things suddenly looked like historical reenactment events - only, organized by highschoolers. They drifted away to a neighboring field and carried on whatever religious rites they have contrived.
The great tragedy is that they are drawn to this mysterious place for something (they know not what) and nothing has challenged them beyond the ordinary other than this silly dress up druidism. Not the Church – nothing else. Something has got to be better than a do-it-yourself religion (no one knows more than a paragraph or two about genuine druid thought). Here I ached for the children of Britain (and America). Their experience is emptied by our vacuous culture. They’re willing to buy literally just anything. And the greatest story ever told has become somehow so tame that it cannot capture their imagination. How sad. How deeply sad for us all.
The deepest longings of Paganism, strangely enough, are fulfilled in the fullness of the Christian faith. Everything man wants and desires (truly) is to be found in this fullness. I did not preach at Stonehenge, though I wanted to. St. Paul is braver than me and would not have avoided such an opportunity. God help us and make us more like St. Paul.
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